Uptown Plaza, the recently renovated shopping center across from the Central / Camelback light rail station, was first built in 1955. In the Eisenhower era, beer was more regional than it is today, with many brands that no longer exist popular in one place but perhaps unheard of a few states away. After several decades of industry consolidation, the pendulum has swung back towards local favorites with an emphasis on regional craft beer. In that way, Huss Brewing Company, which operates a taproom at Uptown Plaza, recalls the center’s midcentury roots.
To be clear, Huss’ Uptown location is not a brewery. No beer is produced on site. Instead, Huss uses its original facility in Tempe to brews its own beers, along with those of Papago, a separate local brand it recently acquired. The result is Arizona’s third largest craft brewery, with enough name recognition to justify a physical presence in more than one place. With the expansion to Uptown Plaza, there is the addition of food, making this taproom essentially a neighborhood pub located in what might be described as the corner pocket of Uptown Plaza.
From the northeast corner of the parking lot, follow a courtyard past several chain restaurants to a grassy space full of white bike racks. Huss is on the right, the last establishment before the wall that separates the shopping center from the adjacent Windsor Square historic district. That proximity originally generated some neighborhood opposition to Huss’ presence. With licensing and zoning issues resolved, the taproom manages to coexist with its neighbors by avoiding amplified music, big screen televisions, or anything else reminiscent of a sport bar or nightclub.
Instead, it’s a more sedate atmosphere with tables inside the taproom, an L–shaped bar, and a patio that’s open when the garage-style doors are rolled up during milder weather. A children’s section on the menu makes it clear that this place is fine for family outings. The look is tile, concrete floors, and wooden tables with a little space devoted to displays of Huss-branded merchandise, along with a few local non-Huss products such as Cutino hot sauces. Paper menus at each table describe food and drink options, both of which have seasonal variations.
Beer is of course front and center at the taproom. Shorties, pints, and pitchers are available with classics under the Huss brand like Scottsdale Blonde and Koffee Kolsch, as well as Papago’s venerable Orange Blossom, offered year round. Other beers include seasonal limited release brews such as Ro Sham Beaux, a double citra IPA with an alcohol content matched only its hoppy bitterness; a milder Grapefruit IPA; and even gentler wheat beers. For those who don’t care for beer, a selection of wine, cider, and non-alcoholic house-made sodas are served.
The food menu at Huss is beer-centric, but not really traditional pub grub. Chicken wings, fish and chips, and burgers are not on the menu. Instead, there’s an emphasis on sausage, snacks, pretzels, and pizza. Starters for the table include simple choices like olives, potato chips and dip, tortilla chips with salsa, and a giant pretzel with mustard . More involved options include black bean nachos, which can be enhanced with green chile pork, and a meat-and-cheese board with a variety of dried fruits, pickled vegetables, cured meats, sliced cheeses, and bread.
The same wooden boards used for this charcuterie platter form the basis of many of the shareable entrees at Huss. Flatbread pizzas ideal for two people to share come in varieties as straightforward as oven-roasted tomatoes and fresh basil or as intriguing as a Belgian flamkucchen topped with meunster cheese, sour cream, red onions, chives, and prosciutto. Sausage boards combine garnishes, condiments, and vegetable sides with a choice of one of four types of links from Schreiner’s, or even a choice of three nicknamed a “sausage party.”
Huss serves three varieties of sliders in servings of three for a set price or individually for a lower price at happy hour. The meatless one is a caprese, a simple match of mozzarella with tomato and basil with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The green chile sliders have tender pork with a bit of spice and cotija cheese. The roast beef variety have their own distinctive notes from horseradish and muenster cheese. Beyond sliders but still served in a bun, the Uptown Sonoran Dog is Huss’s version of a Mexican-American favorite.
The taproom’s menu usually has one or two seasonal specials to add to the food offerings. Nevertheless, if the choices at Huss don’t appeal to everyone in a dining party, bringing in food from other tenants at Uptown Plaza is not only allowed, but even encouraged with a notice to that effect printed right on the menu. In fact, the Huss staff can provide menus for the establishment’s neighbors, many of them national restaurant brands establishing their first Phoenix presence at Uptown Plaza, along with a few local names such as Zookz.
Since many of the restaurants at Uptown Plaza have a sizeable takeout business, it also makes sense that Huss offers growlers, large reusable vessels that can be filled with any of the brews for home consumption. The beers that go into these growlers are all ones that would have been unknown when Uptown Plaza opened over six decades ago. Then again, many of the beers of 1955 are no longer with us today. With massive consolidation having dominated the industry between now and then, Huss is a welcome return to the tradition of regional beer.
100 E Camelback Rd. #160, Phoenix AZ 85012